Exile: Sarah Harrison On Paying The Price For Helping Edward Snowden

from the journalist-or-terrorist? dept

One of the unsung heroines of the Snowden story is Sarah Harrison. A statement she published on WikiLeaks in November 2013 describes her role as follows:

As a journalist I have spent the last four months with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and arrived in Germany over the weekend. I worked in Hong Kong as part of the WikiLeaks team that brokered a number of asylum offers for Snowden and negotiated his safe exit from Hong Kong to take up his legal right to seek asylum. I was travelling with him on our way to Latin America when the United States revoked his passport, stranding him in Russia. For the next 39 days I remained with him in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where I assisted in his legal application to 21 countries for asylum, including Germany, successfully securing his asylum in Russia despite substantial pressure by the United States. I then remained with him until our team was confident that he had established himself and was free from the interference of any government.
Harrison has now written a fine piece for The Guardian about the consequences for her of providing support to Snowden and WikiLeaks:
I cannot return to England, my country, because of my journalistic work with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and at WikiLeaks. There are things I feel I cannot even write. For instance, if I were to say that I hoped my work at WikiLeaks would change government behaviour, this journalistic work could be considered a crime under the UK Terrorism Act of 2000.

The act gives a definition of terrorism as an act or threat "designed to influence the government", that "is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause" and that would pose a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public. UK government officials have continually asserted that this risk is present with the disclosure of any "classified" document.

Elsewhere the act says "the government" means the government of any country -- including the US. Britain has used this act to open a terrorism investigation relating to Snowden and the journalists who worked with him, and as a pretext to enter the Guardian's offices and demand the destruction of their Snowden-related hard drives. Britain is turning into a country that can't tell its terrorists from its journalists.
She points out that she is not alone in suffering from the UK government's absurdly broad definition of "terrorism": Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda was detained for nine hours at London's Heathrow airport, and Snowden's lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, was interrogated there too. But the knock-on effects for journalism in the UK are particularly serious:
If Britain is going to investigate journalists as terrorists take and destroy our documents, force us to give up passwords and answer questions -- how can we be sure we can protect our sources? But this precedent is now set; no journalist can be certain that if they leave, enter or transit through the UK this will not happen to them.
One likely consequence of this is that international journalists will avoid passing through the UK on the way to their final destinations. More seriously, they may be unwilling to enter the UK to visit. Sadly, given the UK's increasingly besmirched reputation as a beacon of civilization with a free and effective press, that's likely to be viewed by the government there as more of a feature than a bug.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:50pm

    /cry

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:59pm

    Lobbyist attempt to "influence the government" with the intent of pushing "political, religious, racial or ideological causes". Often posing a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public.

    Usually in the form of unaffordable medicines due to patent monopolies, or contaminated drinking water due to fracking.

    It's time to declare a war on lobbyists. They fit the definition of "terrorists", to the letter.

     

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  3.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:02pm

    Terrorists don't publish their address. Journalist do. This makes them easy pickings for a lazy government that is only interested having their actions stay secret.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:02pm

    UK Terrorism Law Terrible

    Seriously, that terrorism law was written for tyrants. Under that language /any/ political activity technically qualifies. Protesting, writing a letter to your representative, hell writing any political statement. Does the UK have anything analogous to the supreme court to slap that shit down?

     

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  5.  
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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:08pm

    The act gives a definition of terrorism as an act or threat "designed to influence the government", that "is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause" and that would pose a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public.

    That description classifies the entire UK political system as nothing but one massive terrorist organization. I wonder why UK politicians, not to mention, the United States Government, aren't listed as the largest worldwide terrorist organizations to ever operate on this planet.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    my name here, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:16pm

    problem

    There is one real problem with this story. One thing that everyone seems to ignore. It's the point that she isn't always acting as an innocent reporter in these situations, but as an active member.

    " I worked in Hong Kong as part of the WikiLeaks team that brokered a number of asylum offers for Snowden and negotiated his safe exit from Hong Kong to take up his legal right to seek asylum."

    Last time I looked, this was not a journalist's job, it's the job of someone working to protect someone from being arrested and forced to face justice.

    If you think her actions are only that of a journalist, then you probably believe The Onion too.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:38pm

    i wonder how long before one can be branded a terrorist for voting for change.

     

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  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:43pm

    horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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  9.  
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    The Old Man in The Sea, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:53pm

    Re: problem

    Her acting as an active member does not take away from her the ability to be a journalist. These are two separate "jobs" or function being performed by the same person. If she feels that it is her responsibility to help while also undertaking the the function of journalistic reporting that should have no bearing on her function as a journalist.

    When it boils down to it, the UK government, from their parliament to all the official organisations under their authority, is starting to function more fully on the basis of despotism, fascism, and we may end up seeing it go to a dictatorship (if they can remove the Royal Family).

    The only way this can be resolved is for people to stand at the next election and run for parliament to bring about change. You must remember that though the current prime minister believes he has the upper hand, he can be sacked by his boss - The Queen, or he can be removed in the party room by his own elected party members.

    If at the next election his own electorate votes him out, he will have no position in parliament.

     

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  10.  
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    Rekrul, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:59pm

    Re: problem

    "Last time I looked, this was not a journalist's job, it's the job of someone working to protect someone from being arrested and forced to face justice."

    (ARGH! Why aren't the style tags working???)

    Justice? Snowden reveals that the US intelligence community is violating the Constitution in a massive way and he's branded a criminal. The intelligence agencies violate the Constitution, lie to Congress about it, have absolutely no accountability and break all sorts of law, but they're just fine and dandy?

     

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  11.  
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    Rekrul, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:00am

    Re:

    That depends on how many people you get to vote for change along with you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:30am

    Re:

    Corporate governments enforcing a "monopoly"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    David, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:36am

    Re:

    Voting for change is giving comfort and aid to the enemies of the status quo. It is not terrorism but treason.

    Don't think you can get away with it because votes are supposedly secret. National security trumps privacy.

     

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  14.  
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    my name here, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 1:11am

    Re: Re: problem

    "Her acting as an active member does not take away from her the ability to be a journalist."

    You are correct. I am however incredibly uncomfortable with the idea that she can wrap herself in the magic cloak of a journalist and we are suppose to ignore her other activities. The UK government doesn't care about her activities as a journalist, and it's incredibly self-serving and more than a little dishonest to do so.

    What would happen if she was a butcher instead of a journalist? Would you say that the UK government has a thing against butchers, too?

     

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  15.  
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    Peter (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 1:32am

    It would appear that armed police are terrorists, too: "(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied."

     

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  16.  
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    sciamiko (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 1:37am

    Re: Voting

    Quoting Sarah Harrison:

    "The act gives a definition of terrorism as an act or threat "designed to influence the government", that "is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause" and that would pose a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public."


    Voting for the opposition at a general election seems to fall into the definition of "terrorism" according to this statement.

    1. Designed to influence the government? Yes - in fact attempting to overthrow the government.

    2. Made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause? Yes - promoting the political aims of the opposing party.

    3. Pose a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public? Yes - listen to any raucous parliamentary debate in the House of Commons and it is clear that the party in power believes that the other side will serious damage the health of the nation or part of the population. Look like good character witnesses for any trial.

    This legislation is a disgrace and needs repealing.

    P.S. all my attempts to put in html tags just got stripped out when previewed. How do you make an indented blockquote?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 2:05am

    Re: Re: Re: problem

    If you honestly believe the UK government doesn't care about her work as a journalist for Wikileaks you are either incredibly naive or incredibly gullible.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 4:32am

    Hmm...

    So, any british here? Might want to print a t-shirt for example=
    Front: I write encryption software
    Back: And I am proud of it!

    Or just=
    Front: I know Truecrypt
    Back: And I love it!

    Tourists should brobaly not use them =(

     

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  19.  
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    Tom (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 4:35am

    It's sad...

    ... to realize that our own governments are our biggest enemies and threats.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Beta (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 5:13am

    Re: problem

    "It's... working to protect someone from being arrested and forced to face justice."

    If imprisonment under a law against political reform is justice, then I would be proud to protect someone from being forced to face it.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 5:47am

    Re:

    terrorism is .. advancing ... a cause

    The government is trying to get the UK back into the stone age, hence no 'advancing', hence they're no terrorists....

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    David, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 6:27am

    No, it's glorious!

    The whole point of soliciting is picking the pimp that is the meanest guy on the block since then it is only one asshole who is beating you up rather than several.

    Good choice, Britains.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 7:13am

    Re: problem

    Whose Justice , Not the citizens of the US whom for the most part are seeing Snowden as a whistleblower, not the spy/traitor that the US and UK Governments perceive him to be. She (Sarah Harrison) did not commit any crimes that could stand up in any criminal case, But under the guise of terrorism could be harassed , detained and intimidated. When the accusers become what they say they're fighting against what choice is she left with.
    The Government doesn't get to dictate/define when an individual feels terrorized.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Dean William Barnes, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 7:14am

    Re: problem

    Have to disagree with you on this. In today's world a journalist has to goto extreme measures to protect their sources. Snowden was a source that needed protection. This unfortunately is the new reality.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 7:16am

    Re:

    gotta vote with dollars ,politicians don't accept change.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 7:44am

    Journalism is terrorism in the UK? I totally noticed that in a previous article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Ben (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 8:15am

    Terrorism?

    Why can't "Terrorism" be defined as: "Causing, or intent to Cause, Terror"?

    Do politicians get paid by the word?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re:

    Correction, they gotta get paid in small brown envelopes filled with 1000 batches, non-sequential.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    JP Jones (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 8:29am

    Re: Terrorism?

    Nope, but lawyers do.

    Once you build a society based on following the rules rather than logic laws become useless and arbitrary.

    Your definition applies to plenty of things that a logical person would not consider terrorism (horror films, for example) and does not apply to things that are usually considered terrorism (revealing classified information isn't that scary, but can still get people killed). So to make your definition work you then have to define "terror" which has a different actual meaning than the meaning you're using in context.

    Ah, context. The missing link in the American judicial system. Without context, everyone is a criminal according to the law. Which is reality today.

     

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  30.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 9:01am

    Re:

    The act gives a definition of terrorism as an act or threat "designed to influence the government", that "is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause" and that would pose a "serious risk" to the health or safety of a section of the public.

    Those negotiating "corporate sovereignty" deals wouold certainly fit the definition.

     

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  31.  
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    letherial (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 9:54am

    Re: problem

    Your wrong here, protection of our democracy comes from whistle blowers who have always found sympathetic journalist to help them.

    Your argument is a simple one but ignores the larger context, who really cares if she helped snowden? it doesn't matter, its a distraction to the fact that we just found out that two governments that are supposed to be 'free' have setup such intrinsic spying operations that even china is drooling.

    If you agree with what the government are doing then just say so, but to suddenly argue that she is not a proper journalist because she helped snowden realy ignores the larger issue and is irrelevant to the problem at hand.

    You should be VERY concerned that they are trying to use terrorism to shut down journalist, unless you like oppressive goverments. 10 years from now you could very well be saying long live the king, less you be charged with terrorism for wishing the king ill.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    my name here, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: problem

    "to suddenly argue that she is not a proper journalist because she helped snowden realy ignores the larger issue "

    I am not claiming she isn't a proper journalist. I don't even reference her work as a journalist at all in my argument, far from it. Rather, the things that she did with Snowden, including helping him move into exile and staying with him to help him during his long hole up in Russian airport, have little to do with journalism and more to do with personal activism and personal choices.

    Essentially, your argument is exactly the problem I am trying to cite. It's not about being a journalist, it's about being a person who helped someone evade law enforcement, and did so for an extended period of time.

    Put another way, if she was writing a story about bank robbers or the guys pilfering bitcoins, would it be okay if she helped them escape after? Would it be acceptable for her to live off the avails of the crime for a while? Why does waving a journalist card suddenly make that sort of thing acceptable?

    It's not her journalism that gets her in trouble, it's her activism. Nobody is trying to stop her being a journalist, but they certainly are upset at her for aiding and abetting a fleeing fugitive.

    Oh, and I don't worry about the rest of your hyperbole. We as a people aren't going anywhere near there, no matter how many guy fawkes masks people try to wear.

     

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  33.  
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    madasahatter (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 10:36am

    Overbroad Laws

    The real problem is overbroad laws that any unscrupulous prosecutor can use to harass someone the ruling class wants muzzled. We can argue about the ethics and legality of the NSA's actions and Snowdon's actions but the real issue is the NSA is ignoring the US Constitution because of several badly written laws that given them apparent legal cover. The UK terrorism has the same flaws, overly broad definition of terrorism which allows for the possible harassment of someone the ruling class dislikes.

    The overbroad laws effectively makes all citizens criminals who have not been convicted yet.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:38pm

    the too close ties to the USA is making the UK as bad. the government is so besotted with doing whatever the USA says or wants, it is screwing itself. what a situation for a country to be in. it wants to put out the appearance of freedom and privacy but does whatever it takes to throw it away. as for doing what it should be for the people, that seems to have gone down the toilet with many other things since this government came to be.

     

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  35.  
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    The Wanderer (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 2:08pm

    Re: UK Terrorism Law Terrible

    To be fair, none of the things you describe generally include the "serious risk" element required by the law.

    Which doesn't mean they couldn't be deemed to in some cases, however...

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: problem

    Right, but that's not what My Name Here is saying. Her acts of JOURNALISM are one thing, but brokering Snowden's asylum and assisting with his exiting Hong Kong? These are not acts of journalism. Is it really so unreasonable to wonder whether those actions are the cause of her suffering at this point?

    Don't get me wrong, her actions were performed for a noble purpose, and my hat is off to her, but she can't expect to get away with all of her activities just because she's a journalist.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    The Old Man in The Sea, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: problem

    History has shown us that any activities that point the finger at any government will generate an adverse reaction by that government against the originator, those who help them, their families, friend, associates, acquaintances, neighbours, etc.

    When a government is caught with its pants down, particularly when they are doing illegal activities, they get very upset and will do whatever they can to make the revealers suffer.

    This is just one more example of this.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    The Old Man in The Sea, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: problem

    Essentially, your argument is exactly the problem I am trying to cite. It's not about being a journalist, it's about being a person who helped someone evade law enforcement, and did so for an extended period of time.

    The problem with your statement is not looking at what laws have been broken and why. At various times and in various places, including the USA, it has been illegal to help specific groups of people, because the law allows the persecution, enslavement or killing of people for various reasons.

    In this case, it allows the prosecution of someone who has revealed GOVERNMENT ILLEGAL ACTIVITY. This is the salient point.

    It is the government trying to hide its activities, which if you did, would land you in the deepest darkest prison.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 5:24pm

    Re: problem

    No one believes you, bobmail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 6:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: problem

    It's not her journalism that gets her in trouble, it's her activism. Nobody is trying to stop her being a journalist, but they certainly are upset at her for aiding and abetting a fleeing fugitive.

    Journalism (of any quality) is a form of activism. Anything else is just public relations (to paraphrase George Orwell).

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    The Old Man in The Sea, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 10:37pm

    Test Message - HTML tags not working

    blockquote
    bold
    italic
    emphasis

    As has been noted elsewhere, none of the HTML tags above are working. Site manager may need to look at system.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    xz11111000000 (profile), Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 12:30am

    Techdirt readers should understand the UK

    Does not have some of the basic constitutional human rights other modern states enjoy and going forward with the pending changes to EU law, potential conflicts exist.

    This explains why so many UK representatives voted against the legislation.

    It also partly explains Ms Harrison's predicament.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 3:53am

    Re: problem

    your statement blends out that shes a target cause of unlawful uncontrolled secret service activities that threaten democracy and free market.
    if she acted like normal oldschool journalist, we wouldnt know the illegal activity and she would be arrested.

    i bet your telling us an nsa talking point, ...common DDR tactics on desinformation

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 7:31am

    Re: It's sad...

    I knew this years ago, but couldn't do anything about it. Now I can, and I do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    Harly9 (profile), Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Re: problem

    You're right. It's absolutely horrible that they would try to pattern terrorist's communications and THEN actually eavesdrop on them. We should continue on blindly trusting everyone living within our borders.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    observer, Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: problem

    We already know how naive and gullible they are from the way they characterised the reprisals Snowden might have faced as "justice".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
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    BernardoVerda (profile), Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 11:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: problem

    > > "Her acting as an active member does not take away from her the ability to be a journalist."

    > You are correct. I am however incredibly uncomfortable with the idea that she can wrap herself in the magic cloak of a journalist and we are suppose to ignore her other activities. The UK government doesn't care about her activities as a journalist, and it's incredibly self-serving and more than a little dishonest to do so.

    The thing is: her "other activities" are essentially journalistic, and/or to enabling the kind of journalism we supposedly depend on in a democratic society -- ie. keeping the general public properly informed on matters of public policy and public interest.

    If that's "activism", then it's precisely the sort of activism in which journalists are supposed to engage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    BernardoVerda (profile), Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 11:58pm

    Re: Re:

    Those running for an opposition party would certainly fit the definition, too.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:13am

    Hacking scandal was badly timed

    Problem is the UK had just had a journalist hacking scandal before this government hacking scandal. The general mood about hacking has since become very apathetic and nihilistic. It feels like everyone hacks and spies, and without proper systems of government to fight this, there is very little chance of political change.

    I dislike many things about the EU, but one thing I like is the declaration of rights. It saddens how many UK politicians see it as a negative.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:34am

    Re: Terrorism?

    Because that's a terrible definition of terrorism. In the first place, it means that all horror movies would be considered terrorism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 7:22am

    Re: Re: UK Terrorism Law Terrible

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 24th, 2014 @ 7:27am

    Most likely, they'll avoid travelling through the UK because they don't want to risk Heathrow losing their luggage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Mar 28th, 2014 @ 12:00am

    Re: Re: Re: problem

    You're right. It's absolutely horrible that they would try to pattern terrorist's communications and THEN actually eavesdrop on them. We should continue on blindly trusting everyone living within our borders.

    Allowing the police to go door to door and search everyone's homes would catch a lot of illegal stuff. Are you in favor of such a change in the law?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
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    Harly9 (profile), Mar 31st, 2014 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: problem

    @Rekrul. Comparing apples to oranges. A lame attempt at that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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